Frederick Honors College at Pitt-Greensburg

"Dean Nicola Foote and President Robert Gregerson cross bridge together on Greensburg's campus"
Frederick Honors College's dean Nicola Foote and Pitt-Greensburg's president Robert Gregerson cross bridge together on Greensburg's campus.

Meeting of the minds between University leadership establishes new opportunities for Pitt students as Frederick Honors College becomes a multi-campus unit

The Honors Program developed by dedicated faculty at the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg is about to receive a major upgrade through a Pittsburgh campus partnership.

Starting fall 2024, current and incoming students can become members of the newly formed David C. Frederick Honors College at Pitt-Greensburg and gain access to the same programming, funding and honors-specific support as their peers in Pittsburgh. The historic collaboration is the result of a profound commitment to improving accessibility to an honors education by the Frederick Honors College and Greensburg honors faculty.

“It is impossible to overstate how exciting this new partnership is for both campuses,” said Nicola Foote, dean of the Frederick Honors College. “The establishment of the Frederick Honors College at Pitt-Greensburg will allow a wider range of curious, talented and ambitious students to participate in challenging interdisciplinary learning opportunities and become part of an intellectual community that provides mentorship and support, as well as a curated approach to research, leadership and global and community engagement. This is a major step in the emergence of our school as a regionally and nationally preeminent honors college.”

Honors 101: A brief history

"Pitt-Greensburg President Robert Gregerson and Frederick Honors College Dean Nicola Foote in front of Lynch Hall"
Pitt-Greensburg President Robert Gregerson and Frederick Honors College Dean Nicola Foote in front of Lynch Hall.

The foundation of honors education at Pitt-Greensburg can be traced back to 1999, when the Academic Village was established to serve as a system of four living-learning communities (LLC) for the campus’ most intellectually curious students. The LLCs were separated by academic division until 2010, when they became integrated into one interdisciplinary village and served as the campus’ unofficial honors community.

“My long-time involvement at Pitt-Greensburg with the Academic Village and the Honors Program has put me in regular contact, in and out of the classroom, with many of the bright and creative students who have made this such a great place to teach,” said Frank Wilson, assistant vice president for academic affairs. “Becoming witness to and partnering with them as they grow intellectually and excel academically is inspiring and rewarding.  As a sociologist who is increasingly worried about the future of our social worlds, it is my interaction with these young people that continues to give me reason to keep hope alive.”

Wilson, along with fellow Pitt-Greensburg faculty members Sheila Confer, William Pamerleau and John Prellwitz, took this idea to the next level and became founders of the Honors Program, which they formally established in fall 2020. They placed emphasis on creating a culture of exploration for educators and students alike, focusing on developing opportunities for interdisciplinary studies, collaborative teaching and student leadership.

At the Pittsburgh campus, honors education has experienced changing modalities in recent years. Founded in 1987, the honors college is one of the oldest in the nation, with a unique tradition of inclusive excellence. In 2018, it launched a joint degree program to complement the legacy BPhil degree and moved to a direct-admit model for incoming first-year students.

In July 2022, former Chancellor Patrick Gallagher announced the multimillion-dollar gift by David C. Frederick and Sophie Lynn to rename the University Honors College and establish the David C. Frederick Honors College at the University of Pittsburgh. An alumnus of the honors program under Founding Dean G. Alec Stewart, Frederick (A&S ’83) was Pitt’s first Rhodes Scholar and studied at Oxford University from 1983-1986. Frederick has since become one of the country’s most successful appellate lawyers, having argued more than 60 U.S. Supreme Court cases.

In the two years since the Fredericks made their transformative gift supporting both the University of Pittsburgh and University College at Oxford University in England, the Frederick Honors College has used this funding to support its student body’s expansion to over 3000 students and to build out new research and internship programs. The Frederick Honors College has expanded its physical footprint to include a student engagement space and honors advising suites on the thirty-fourth floor of the Cathedral of Learning and has added a new upper-division LLC in University Hall.

During this time, the Frederick Honors College has also created a dedicated Office of National Scholarships and Post-Graduation Success, headed by Lesha Greene, which provides mentorship and guidance to students applying for nationally competitive fellowships such as the Fulbright, Truman and Marshall. The expansion also includes a new Office of Social Innovation in Honors Education, which empowers all Pitt students to find applied solutions to complex social questions.

In fall 2022, the Frederick Honors College launched the electus faculty fellows program to provide financial support to an annual cohort of four faculty members who serve in this capacity for three years. The electus faculty fellows develop innovative honors-specific courses that address current world issues and offer students the chance to pair in-class learning with practical application for post-graduation success.

Paving a two-way street

The idea of creating the Frederick Honors College at Pitt-Greensburg emerged following a series of campus visits by leadership and faculty members and was inspired by the goals of the Frederick naming gift.

“David Frederick was clear in committing to the transformative naming gift that his goal was to ensure the Frederick Honors College gained recognition for its inclusive approach to honors education,” said Foote. “This included ensuring that students at Pitt’s regional campuses will have access to honors education. President Gregerson and I have worked together before, and I enormously admire the innovative honors program that has emerged under his leadership, and so collaborating on this partnership felt like a very natural step.

“After President Gregerson and former provost Ann Cudd signed an agreement committing to the Frederick Honors College at Pitt-Greensburg’s creation, we formed a steering committee headed by FHC assistant dean David Hornyak and including representatives from both campuses to work through how to integrate existing academic and co-curricular programs into a cohesive whole.

“We are thrilled to see the partnership formally launch and see this collaboration as a reflection of the ambitious vision for student success set by Chancellor Gabel’s revised Plan for Pitt, as well as Provost McCarthy’s commitment to innovation at the regional campuses.”

“We are excited to join our emergent honors program with the Frederick Honors College and are grateful to the leadership of the college and Mr. Frederick for his support,” said Robert Gregerson, president of the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg. “This is a unique opportunity for Pitt students at regional campuses to participate in an elite honors education. Admission to the Frederick Honors College at Pitt-Greensburg will provide them with extensive opportunities for deeper learning, additional experiential options and expansive co-curricular programming.”

"Bill Pamerleau, philosophy professor, and Frank Wilson, sociology professor, co-teaching a Greensburg honors class."
William Pamerleau, philosophy professor, and Frank Wilson, sociology professor, co-teaching a Pitt-Greensburg honors class.

A hallmark of the Frederick Honors College at Pitt-Greensburg will be cross-campus networking among instructors and students. Foote and Gregerson believe modern technology will facilitate easy collaboration and encourage faculty from both campuses to develop and co-teach honors courses.

“This partnership will enhance the Pitt-Greensburg faculty’s abilities to individualize instruction to adapt and respond to student interests and needs in creating learning opportunities that support community organizations and help address pressing community needs,” said Prellwitz, associate professor of communication. “I am inspired when I enjoy the privilege of being present with students as they address problems from environmental challenges to cultural issues and enduring disciplinary questions with curiosity, passion and a will to make things better.”

Students who complete the honors joint degree or the highly prestigious Bachelor of Philosophy degree will graduate from both their school of admission and the Frederick Honors College and have access to additional research, community engagement and other co-curricular opportunities as well as funding to support their learning outside of the classroom.

“They will have access to programs and scholarship advising provided on the Pittsburgh campus,” said Pamerleau, professor of philosophy. “And for our most motivated students, the Bachelor of Philosophy program will allow students to pursue research projects that will cultivate their intellectual growth and boost their academic credentials.”

The Pittsburgh and Greensburg campuses are approximately 35 miles apart, but academic leadership from both sides hope to pave a two-way street for their students. Foote and Gregerson continue to discuss means of transporting students to and from events at either campus so that they can embrace the company of their peers, getting to know one another and building a sense of honors community.

Giving Greensburg a competitive edge

Pitt-Greensburg students have only just begun to showcase their successes to the wider Pitt community, with Kaylee Huber and Ethan Crosby becoming the first students from a regional campus to receive Brackenridge Fellowships.

Brett Say, the FHC director of research programs, has been instrumental in partnering with Greensburg faculty to encourage and recruit students from across all disciplines for the Brackenridge and expressed his excitement that his office will now be able to support even more Greensburg students in their pursuit of advanced research projects.

"Madison Vogel standing in front of hedge"
Madison Vogel is Pitt-Greensburg's 2024 Gilman Scholar.

“We have always known how special our students are at Pitt-Greensburg,” said Confer, director of the Academic Village and instructor of theatre arts and first-year studies. “This partnership will allow us to show their accomplishments to an even larger audience.”

More recently, Madison Vogel, a Pitt-Greensburg senior majoring in psychology, received a Gilman Scholarship. Dean Foote believes access to the Frederick Honors College’s Office of National Scholarships, Office of Honors Research and other resources will increase the number of competitive awards earned by Greensburg students.

“We know that there are incredible students at the Greensburg campus,” she said. “Through enhanced access to the Frederick Honors College’s national scholarships advising, we are hopeful that we will soon be advancing Greensburg candidates for all of the most prestigious fellowships, including the Fulbright, Truman, Rhodes and Marshall. Our goal is ultimately to win a Rhodes from Pitt-Greensburg.”

Photos by Tom Altany, Susan Isola and Madison Vogel.